21st Mar 2018

Stop jailing refugee children, UN adviser tells Greece

The UN's rapporteur for migrant rights has urged Greece to stop detaining child refugees in prison cells.

Francois Crepeau said on Monday (16 May) there was no reason to lock up minors.

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Some of the children arriving in Greece are detained in cells for more than two weeks.

“Children should not be detained — period. Detention should only be ordered when people present a risk, a danger, a threat to the public and it has to be a documented threat, it cannot simply be a hunch,” said Crepeau.

His comments follow a fact-finding mission in Greece from 12 to 16 May.

The UN envoy urged Greece to find alternative solutions like guardianship and child protection services for the young.

Save the Children NGO estimates around 2,000 unaccompanied children are stranded in Greece.

Hundreds are also found living in squalid conditions at an improvised refugee camp in Idomeni in northern Greece.

Around 50,000 asylum seekers are stuck in the Greek mainland.

The UN agency for refugees estimates some 35 percent of migrants entering the EU since the start of year are children.

Last year, over 85,000 lone children applied for asylum in the EU. Half were from Afghanistan and around 13 percent from Syria.

The EU police agency Europol estimates around 10,000 children have disappeared since their arrival in Europe.

Some are feared to have been lured into sexual exploitation or other forms of slavery by criminal gangs.

The EU Commission earlier this month launched a proposal to reform the asylum rules in a bid to better distribute people throughout EU states.

The Brussels executive says its new rules will put the interest of the child first.

The plan includes fingerprinting and photographing children as young as six - down from the current age of 14.

The biometric data will be stored in Eurodac, a database to help identify asylum seekers. Police have access to it.

The reforms follow a failed EU policy to relocate thousands of people from Greece to other EU states.

Refusing to relocate

The flagship policy, launched last year, was designed to relocate 160,000 people from Italy and Greece to other EU states over a two-year period.

But the scheme has largely failed to deliver.

Greece has registered around 3,100 for relocation but EU states have only made space available for just under 1,800.

Some asylum seekers are refusing to take part after being told that they will be sent to places like Bulgaria and Romania, according to the Financial Times.

The newspaper noted that out of the 1,324 ready to be relocated, some 191 have either absconded or refused to participate.

Last week, 47 were told they would be sent to Bulgaria. Only four were dispatched. Most withdrew while a few others went missing.

Romania was supposed to receive 67 but only ended up with 35. The others also either went missing or withdrew.

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